Thales and Diehl Join Airbus eVTOL Project

They’ll develop primary and secondary flight control computers for Airbus’ electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

Thales and Diehl Aerospace will develop separate flight control computers for the CityAirbus NextGen electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi, Airbus announced Thursday. 

The two companies will work to develop redundant computer systems that will be critical to flight operations and safety for the emerging aircraft.

The France-based OEM first revealed CityAirbus NextGen in September, saying the first flight of a prototype is expected in 2023. 

Thales will oversee NextGen’s primary computing system, while Diehl is developing a secondary flight control computer. The design is meant to ensure that a second, independent flight-control computer monitors data from the primary computer system. The secondary system will also be designed to take over the eVTOL’s flight-control system if necessary.

CityAirbus NextGen

CityAirbus NextGen will be a fixed-wing, V-tail aircraft with eight electrically powered ducted propellers as part of its distributed propulsion system. It is designed to carry up to four passengers.

The aircraft is Airbus’s latest venture into the eVTOL industry, which is aimed at providing quick, environmentally friendly hops over traffic congested streets and highways. 

CityAirbus is being developed to fly with a 80 km (50 mile) range and to reach a cruise speed of 120 km/h (75 mph).

CityAirbus is one of two eVTOL aircraft currently under development at Airbus.

The first-generation CityAirbus made its first remote-controlled flight in 2019.

Aviation Industry Veterans

Thales comes to the project with more than 40 years of electrical flight-control experience. In fact, Thales systems were part of the first ever fly-by-wire commercial airliner, the Airbus A310. 

For decades, Diehl Aerospace, which is jointly run by Thales and Diehl Aviation, has contributed to avionics systems on airplanes as well as helicopters. 

Both flight computer systems will be integrated into the aircraft in compliance with new EASA regulations for eVTOLs. 

This design architecture, Airbus said, will be essential to ensuring the redundancy of the computers and the vehicle’s safety. 

The developments will be supported with public funding from the German and French governments, Airbus said. 

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